Health morbidities associated with the dispensing of lithium to males and females: Cross-sectional analysis of the 10 % Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme sample for 2022

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OBJECTIVES: This study examined the association of gender on the physical morbidity of individuals likely living with bipolar disorder (BD) using a comprehensive health-related database. It investigated the association between lithium dispensing (a surrogate marker for BD) and other health morbidities, considering age and sex.

METHODS: The cross-sectional study design used the 10 % Schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) database in Australia for 2022. Medication dispensing, age, and sex were available. A validated algorithm inferred 45 health morbidities from dispensed medicines. Statistical analyses, including logistic regression, assessed the relationship between lithium dispensing, sex, and age with inferred health morbidities.

RESULTS: The sample consisted of 1,594,112 individuals aged 10 to over 95 years. A higher proportion of women than men were dispensed lithium (0.33 % vs 0.30 %). Lithium dispensing and age were associated with higher prevalence of inferred morbidities. Women dispensed lithium had a greater physical health burden compared to men, with higher odds of chronic airways diseases, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease/hypertension, inflammation, pain, psychosis, and steroid-responsive diseases. Conversely, women dispensed lithium had lower odds of cardiac arrhythmias and hypothyroidism compared to men.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that individuals with BD, indicated by the dispensing of lithium, experience a relatively higher frequency of physical health morbidities, with women being disproportionally affected compared to men. The findings highlight the need for comprehensive care for people living with BD, particularly women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-509
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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